UKIP peddled lies about Muslim women during their election campaign, yet Muslim women won 8 times more seats than them – becoming a Muslim Women’s Powerhouse.
On 23rd April 2017 Paul Nuttal, UKIP leader (at the time) told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show that “58 per cent of Muslim women are economically inactive”. He then went on to link this to these Muslim women supposedly wearing face veils, adding: “If you’re not showing your face it precludes you from a lot of jobs”.*
The problem with this statement (and many others that he made) is that Paul Nuttal wasn’t just misleading people about Muslim women in the UK, he was practically lying about them and getting away with it.
Being ‘economically inactive’ isn’t the same as being ‘unemployed’. The UKIP leader was deliberately conflating the two terms, vilifying Muslim women and presenting them as an unnecessary burden on society. (After all they could be out working if it wasn’t for their supposed face veils).
As some have already pointed out, ‘economically inactive’ people are either retired, in education, looking after their children or families, or have a long-term illness or disability.
The truth is that most Muslim women who are ‘economically inactive’ are carers for other family members (44%) e.g. caring for children, the elderly, relatives with a disability etc. Or they are in further or higher education (21.3%). Not because they’re ‘unemployed’ as UKIP say, and certainly NOT because they wear a face veil ‘precluding them from employment’ as was claimed.
Put simply the UKIP campaign lied, because the number of unemployed Muslim women in 2015 was actually 16%.
This is deeply damaging for our society as these lies went unchallenged and potentially were aired to millions of viewers. Furthermore, it furthers misogynistic attitudes about women who take on caregiving roles; it is often an unrecognised and undervalued labour, which actually contributes to society in many ways both short and long-term.
Since then Paul Nuttal suffered a devastating defeat in his constituency by the Conservatives. He polled 3,308 votes to their 27,271. UKIP in general underwent huge losses in this general election and failed at securing any constituency seats, proof that basing a campaign on attacking Muslim women doesn’t actually pay off.
In the end, the British people voted that UKIPs policies were generally irrelevant to them.
Moreover, the biggest win – given the lies Mr Nuttal pushed, had to be the amount of Muslim women MPs that soared through their election campaigns with massive voter majorities.
So let’s take a moment to appreciate what Muslim women leaders, elected to be our MPs nation-wide, are doing for our country. (Notice the pitiful number of votes UKIP got on each graphic).
In no particular order, I present to you:
Congrats to @NazShahBfd, she had a huge win in Bradford West despite having to overcome what some have called a misogynistic campaign against her. She has campaigned fearlessly to raise the profile of issues around domestic violence against women. She received 22k majority votes.
Representing what I love about London: @DrRosena a Muslim, female, NHS A&E doctor of half-Pakistani half-Polish heritage is MP for Tooting. She received a 15k majority.
@RupaHuq (sister of TV presenter Konnie Huq) is another Muslim female elected to be MP of Ealing and Acton, almost 14k majority.
@Nus_Ghani, a Muslim woman elected to be MP for Wealden. She used to work in the charity sector & won with a 23k majority vote.
@rushanaraali, a Muslim woman elected again to be MP for Bethnal Green and Bow. She’s also the UKs trade envoy for Bangladesh. She achieved a whopping 35k majority. That’s literally one of the most popular constituency MPs in UK history!
@YasminQureshiMP, another Muslim woman MP, elected for Bolton South East. She’s a barrister in criminal law and received a 13k majority.
The lesson here is that UKIP really needed to do some proper research on Muslim women rather than peddle out misogynistic myths. Instead of falsifying stats about a group of women in the UK who already receive so much abuse and disproportionately face violent public attacks, UKIP should learn from the many examples of Muslim women in education and should go educate themselves about how these women contribute to our society.
In our ever increasing post-truth culture, such publicly broadcasted false facts indicate a worrying trend; one where Muslim women may be seen as easy targets, not just by the thugs on the street or within communities, but clearly also by would-be politicians vying for influence and votes.
But, as they say, what goes around comes around and ironically enough Paul Nuttal has since resigned as UKIP leader. Now it is he who is ‘unemployed’.
Or maybe that’s ‘economically inactive’?
By Mariam Hakim
*Read the full transcript of the Paul Nuttal interview here.
Mariam Hakim is a communications professional who regularly writes about faith, gender and parenting issues. Follow @MariamKSHakim